A Little Project

It’s a very little project, but a neat one. It’s also a skill that I have wanted to learn for years. Dying my own yarn.

Yes, I know I can buy yarn in an endless array of colors.

But the process intrigues me, knowing what I do about plants and ethnobotany, and it seems like a good extension of my fiber skills.

So where to start?

I had a couple of parameters for my yarn dying:

1) I wanted to use natural, plant-based dyes.
2) I planned on sticking to yarn that I would actually use, so that meant sport, fingering and lace weight bases.

Last summer, I tried my first batch. It was a small skein of white lace weight from Knitpicks, and I dyes it with red beets. This spring, I decided on a different color. I cook with onions often, so I began saving my onion and shallot peels:


When I had a good amount (maybe one cup?), I dissolved about three teaspoons of alum in a quart of water in a large glass pickle jar. The alum acts as mordant, a substance that helps the natural dyes adhere to the fiber. I layered the onion skins with yarn (more white lace weight) and sealed the jar tight.


The I let it sit for 11 weeks. I really had not intended to let it sit for so long. (The apartment flood kind of changed most of my plans this spring.) In the end, I am glad the yarn sat in the dye for so long. Yesterday I finally opened the jar and looked at the results.




I must admit that the bright yellow is striking and I am very happy with the results. I rinsed the yarn last night and it only faded a tiny bit. It dried to a beautiful color.

It’s ~400 yards of lace weight. The only remaining question is, what should the final knitted piece be?


A Lesson From Mom

On Mother’s Day, we stop to thank our Moms for everything they have done for us.

But start writing a list of what she’s done, and one day doesn’t seem to be sufficient.

So I tried narrowing it down, and I came up with a lesson my mom instilled in me at an early age:

          The back must be as neat as the front.

Standing alone, that may seem like an odd statement. But keep in mind that my mom made a lot of things over the years. Clothing, curtains, wall decorations. Just to name a few.

No matter the finished item, the mark of good craftsmanship is that the backside (or inside) of any piece, often not readily seen, is given just as much attention and care as the front side that is always on display. The backside or inside must be just as presentable as the front side.


It is also a metaphor for life. Are there hidden parts of your life, maybe that no one else sees, in which you don’t try very hard? Or do you strive to do your best even when no one is watching?

I’d hope for the latter.

What lesson did your mom teach you?